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Adobe Gives ColdFusion A Big Overhaul

ColdFusion is the latest Macromedia product to get a long-needed overhaul from Adobe Systems, with the announcement today of a beta release of ColdFusion 8. ColdFusion is a Web site development tool and previously part of the Macromedia family, which merged with Adobe back the 2005.

The ColdFusion 8 public beta is a feature complete preview, allowing developers to begin developing Web pages with it. It's available from Adobe Labs or through Adobe’s hosting partner.

Like it did with RoboHelp 6, Adobe  has brought the out-of-date program up to the latest technologies and integrated it with its many other publishing technologies, such as PDF and Apollo.

Tim Buntel, senior product marketing manager for ColdFusion, tells internetnews.com that Adobe has done more than bring the product up to date, it also expanded its capabilities.

"It's not that it got out of date but the role that the server was playing originally was just about databases and serving Web pages," he said. "With Adobe, we have all of these client technologies. The Web is certainly still important but you also have Flex, Apollo, PDF, structured reporting for spreadsheets. Now people can think of it in this role between a broad range of clients and a broad range of server-side stuff."

Indeed, that's exactly how Adobe is positioning ColdFusion, as the joiner between numerous client-side technologies and server-side technologies and functions. It supports Adobe Flex technology, AJAX-based components, and Eclipse-based wizards, all for building a wide variety of client-side interfaces.

"If you look at technologies like Flex and Apollo, none of those by themselves can get you to your enterprise data and resources. They are just programmatic ways to talk to other things. ColdFusion is the only stack with a highly productive way to expose all of these back end services to whatever client technology you are using," said Buntel.

On the server side, ColdFusion 8 integrates with Microsoft's .NET assemblies and J2EE servers, including JBoss. It also supports application interaction with PDF documents, so you can fill out a PDF document online instead of filling out a form and then a server-side function has the job of filling in the form with the data.

ColdFusion 8 also comes with a server monitoring tool to watch application performance and identify problem applications that may be causing bottlenecks, and recommend how to fix them. It also features an upgraded and improved reporting tool.

Redmonk analyst Michael Cote commended Adobe on the overhaul, its PDF integration and the "integration with the rest of the Adobe universe," but said it faces a stiff challenge from open source development tools.

"I think existing ColdFusion developers will like this. The question has always been will people go for more open source tools that are a free download or Adobe's products," he said. "It's hard to go up against free open source stuff. The features [in ColdFusion 8] are compelling, but the question is whether those features are innovative enough over something someone might be able to just download and use.

The beta is available now, with a late July/early August target date for final release. Pricing will be determined then.